- State & County Quickfacts,United States Census Bureau, Oregon, http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045214/41,00
- Local Area Unemployment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aug. 2015, http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm
- Oregon Economic Summary, State of Oregon, http://www.oregon.gov/DAS/OEA/docs/economic/oregon.pdf
- State Education Data Profiles, National Center for Education Statistics, Oregon, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/stateprofiles/sresult.asp?mode=short&s1=41
- Career/Technical Education (CTE) Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, 2010, https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ctes/tables/S101.asp
- Number of sub baccalaureate certificates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2010, https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ctes/tables/S113.asp
- Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
- Oregon Economy at a Glance, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.or.htm
- State & County QuickFacts, Oregon, United States Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/41000.html
Having only a high school diploma is not enough to make you competitive in Oregon. Graduating from a trade school in Oregon can definitely give an edge in many of these fields. In fact, there are many careers that require either a certificate or associate degree, which technical and vocational schools tend to offer. Even jobs in Oregon that don't require that kind of education, students can gain a competitive advantage by having it.
I see vocational training being a great asset to people. It's a quicker way to get specific experience.
Attending one of the many Oregon vocational schools may be as smart as ever, then. Here's some data and expert advice to give you a sense of what to expect as a student and job-seeker in Oregon.
Vocational education in Oregon
Oregon doesn't mess around when it comes to education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are over 580,000 students in Oregon and over 1,200 schools. In fact, 60 of those schools are postsecondary institutions. A lot of students in Oregon also opt for a vocational program. Here are just a few examples, from the NCES of popular undergraduate certificates earned at Oregon vocational schools:
- Health sciences: Health care tends to be the most popular vocational program by a long shot in most states, and Oregon is no exception. This branch of study includes any program less than a four-year degree, like nursing, heath care technology, personal care, and administrative work. Most vocational health care programs result in an associate degree, and for many jobs you may be required to get additional certification and licensing after your graduation. Most health care jobs also require continuing education for the duration of your career, to stay up to date with the latest health care technology.
- Manufacturing, construction, repair and transportation: Skilled trade jobs have a number of different specializations, and typically have a wide variety of educational paths, including everything from a four-year degree, to an apprenticeship straight out of high school. It may help to know the specifics of what you want to specialize in, such as welding, electrical work, roofing, etc. In most skilled trade jobs, experience and skill is just as important as a degree, but earning a degree is a great way to practice your trade and put your skills on paper.
- Computer and information sciences: Computer engineering degrees have become hugely popular in the last few decades, and the field is still growing and changing. One of the big changes recently is this new initiative toward fast technical training for new engineers. It's possible to earn a certification or degree from a "coding bootcamp" or other similar accelerated program, and bypass the typical four-year degree that used to be the norm. Associate-level training for computer and IT skills has many benefits, and though the BLS usually recommends a four-year degree in most cases, vocational education can be a great alternative.
- Agriculture and natural science: Since Oregon is such a rural state with plenty of green spaces, agriculture could be a good option for students there. And this is also a changing field. With new initiatives for sustainability and "green" living, new research in the field of agriculture and natural sciences is very important. The BLS typically recommends bachelor degrees for this level of scientific research, but many schools offer vocational-level study in this field.
Careers for graduates of Oregon trade schools
Though Oregon is known for being small and rural, there is still job growth in many vocational sectors there. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many fields in Oregon have seen growth in the last 12 months. Here are some fields in the state and how much growth they've seen in the last 12 months (as of Aug. 2015):
- Construction: 2.8%
- Manufacturing: 4.1%
- Trade, transportation and utilities: 3.3%
- Information: 5.5%
- Financial activities: 1.1%
- Professional & business services: 5.0%
- Education & health services: 4.2%
- Leisure & hospitality: 4.0%
- Government: 2.5%
- Other services: 1.7%
Here are a few careers in Oregon that require or prefer an associate degree and show extremely strong growth. Growth figures are between 2012 and 2022 and from Projections Central.
Job Title - Associate Degree Required
Physical Therapist Aides
Occupational Therapy Assistants
Paralegal and Legal Assistants
And here are a few careers in Oregon that are projected to have very strong growth, and tend to require some sort of postsecondary non-degree award (such as a certificate):
Job Title - Post-Secondary Non-Degree Award Required
Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders
Expert advice on vocational education in Oregon with Bart Berry
To get a viewpoint from someone directly responsible for hiring vocational graduates in Oregon, we caught up with Bart Berry. He's a branch manager at DePaul Industries, a staffing agency with offices throughout the state of Oregon (headquartered in Portland). Here's what Berry had to say about vocational education in Oregon.
How do you view a vocational education versus a four-year degree?
I see the benefits of both. But I do work in an environment where I see vocational training being a great asset to people. It's a quicker way to get specific experience. I tend to look at a vocational background when the job is specific because a vocational degree is much more targeted to my clients. That's not always the case with other degrees.
I think people coming from a vocational background are highly-skilled and competent in the field they studied. Graduates of four-year colleges got educated in a variety of areas, not necessarily specific to the job function.
What's your initial response when you see a trade school on a resume?
If I see a vocational background on a resume, instantly I'm thinking, "In that industry, where's a good place for them?" It makes me a little bit more directed in regards to where I want to highlight their skills and showcase their talent -- because their skills are so specific. For that reason, I feel confident when I interview them or place them.
What industries in Oregon are best suited for vocational education?
Our biggest ramp has been in the public sector business. There's been a big increase in public sector jobs and administrative jobs. Manufacturing of course is also doing really well, and government-type jobs have also increased in the number people they've used.
How have you seen vocational graduates fare in Oregon, compared to grads of four-year colleges?
I see that the management companies we work with, in light industrial/labor, tend to lean more toward vocational degree graduates. Though there are some jobs that require a bachelor's degree, vocational education is more reflective of what they do and are looking for.
Bart Berry is a branch manager at DePaul Industries, a staffing agency with offices throughout the state of Oregon.
Financial aid in Oregon
If you're considering attending vocational schools in Oregon, it would be very wise to also think about financial aid. There are a huge number of scholarships, grants, loans and other awards that you might qualify for. The first step that most students take is applying to FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is not state-specific, and anyone can apply. It is a great first step because many applications require the FAFSA as a base requirement.
The next step is to look for financial aid in Oregon specifically. You may not qualify for every award, but it doesn't hurt to search for and apply to as many as you can. Here are a few examples of big scholarships and financial aid programs in Oregon:
- OSAC Scholarship - This is the official scholarship of Oregon, and applying will give you access to over 500 different awards. Browse their website to see the different scholarships available through your OSAC application.
- Oregon Promise Grant - This is an award specifically for those who want to attend community college, and would be a great option for students interested in vocational schools in Oregon. You must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent to apply.
- Chafee Education and Training Grant - This award is a grant, meaning it doesn't have to be paid back. The award is specifically for students who have been in foster care.
- Oregon Barber & Hairdresser Grant - If you're interested in cosmetology, this grant should be on your list. You must be enrolled in a full-time program in order to qualify.